“Haiti’s Electoral Failure and Governance Crisis”, an article by Dr. Leonel Fernández

February 8, 2016

Last Sunday, February 7, Haiti was supposed to transfer power to and sworn in a new President of the Republic.

That did not happen. Instead, the situation today is one of electoral failure, a vacuum of power, institutional collapse, and a crisis of governance.

Haiti awoke this Monday with no President of the Republic, no Prime Minister, and no President of the Provisional Electoral Council, thereby generating a situation of uncertainty
and confusion.

This latest episode in the drama of Haiti’s permanent political crisis began on October 25 of last year, when presidential elections were held along with local and second-round congressional elections, following the first round that had taken place in August.

The congressional elections had set the tone for the anarchy that would follow thereafter. In fact, although only 18 percent of voters turned out, it was necessary to
cancel the polls in 22 electoral districts due to procedural irregularities, sparking protests and acts of violence.

But for the presidential polls on October 25, what happened can be properly described as chaos. Fifty-eight candidates participated from an original list of 70 aspirants, and 900,000 polling station delegates were registered, which should without a doubt appear in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Although just 25 percent of the
country’s 5.8 million voters cast their ballots, none of the contenders won 50 percent of the votes, leaving the two leading candidates to compete in a runoff.

The first of them is Jovenel Moise, a young farming entrepreneur, with 32.8 percent, nominated by the party of outgoing president Michel Martelly, the PHTK; the second, from the LAPEH party, is Jude Célestin with 25.2 percent, a prominent mechanical engineer and graduate of a Swiss university, who in
elections prior to 2010 had received support from then-president René Preval.

Although the runoff was scheduled to be held December 27, five days beforehand, on December 22, the Provisional Electoral Council announced that it would be postponed indefinitely.

Nonetheless, on January 1 of this year president Michel Martelly appeared and announced that the runoff would happen on January 17.

But less
than a week later, on January 7, president Martelly returned to the location of the competent electoral authorities to indicate that in fact the election would no longer happen on January 17, as announced, but now on January 24.

But in fact they were not held on that date, either. Four days before, on January 20, the opposition candidate Jude Célestin announced that whomever participated in the electoral contest set for January 24 would be deemed a traitor of his

From there all hell broke loose. There were street protests, burnings of tires, arson on public and private property, and acts of violence that cost the lives of several people.

In the face of this bloody and mournful panorama, president Michel Martelly, in a speech to the nation on January 21, confirmed that the runoff would indeed take place on the specified date: January 24.

But the day after this intervention, on January
22, the Provisional Electoral Council, in view of the disorder and upset in the country, overrode the announcement from the President of the Republic, opting to suspend the election without specifying the new date for it to be held.

In exactly one month, the presidential runoff in Haiti had been suspended three times, in a continuous struggle between the President of the Republic, the opposition, and the Provisional Electoral Council, with no one knowing with any
precision when that electoral contest would take place until last Saturday.

This entire tragic spectacle en Haiti originated in the fact that according to national and international observers, the elections held on October 25 suffered several irregularities that called into doubt the transparency of the process.

Although the OAS delegation determined that the set of irregularities committed did not alter the results, the
opposition deemed that beyond simple irregularities, there was fraud and inequity in the process, and thus demanded that an independent evaluation commission be set up and the results of the election be annulled.

In principle, the opposition organized into a coalition made up of the eight candidates who trailed the leader, and called themselves the G-8, but in fact they have expanded to the point of being deemed the G-30.

Owing to the continued
violence, disorder, and confusion, the Catholic, Protestant, and other Christian churches, as well as the Economic Forum of the private sector, which brings together the country’s business core, have intervened to request the resignation of the members of the Provisional Electoral Council for ineptitude and incompetence.
Likewise, they have deployed continual efforts to hold a constructive national dialogue to set a timetable to exit the crisis.

the opposition, headed by the second-place candidate Jude Célestin, it is obvious that one of their strategic objectives has been for the runoff to be held without the presence of president Michel Martelly in office.

As of today, without a doubt, that objective has been achieved.

In attempting to put the current Haitian political crisis into perspective, there are certain institutional weaknesses that come to light.

Firstly, in Haiti
there is no permanent electoral structure. Nor is there an electoral court; and electoral law is not applied, but rather always subject to interpretation.

Instead, Haiti has a Provisional Electoral Council, created just a few months before the holding of a contest via presidential decree.

After the elections, the Council disappears.

Electoral justice is carried out through an ad hoc tribunal directed by an electoral opposition

Voting is done manually in each polling station.

The ballots are then taken to a tabulation center in Port-Au-Prince to be digitalized.

The results are handed in late.

Sometimes it takes weeks.

In the case of the October 25 elections, the preliminary results were released sixteen days later, on November 11.

This obviously generates anxiety, suspicion, and lack of
confidence in the system.

Rumors spread. Protests are organized. Violence simmers and the commission gets accused of fraud.

Sometimes even the order of preference of the candidates is altered. This occurred during the 2010 elections, when Jude Célestin came in second after Marlene Manigat.
In the runoff, however, he was mysteriously replaced by Michel Martelly, who had come in third place, who would then, as we know, go on to win the
election to become the president of Haiti.

To exit the institutional and political vacuum in which Haiti is currently submerged, last Saturday, February 6, the creation of a 120-day interim government was proposed, to be presided over by the President of the Court of Appeals or the President of the National Assembly.

April 24 has been set as the new date for the runoff, and May 14 for the inauguration of the president-elect.

this happens. But in any case, what’s clear is that thirty years after the disappearance of the Duvaliers’ dictatorship, the Haitian people today find themselves in a situation of uncertainly, a power vacuum, and a governance crisis that they do not deserve.

As proof of their disapproval of their country’s democracy, in the October 25 elections, some 75 percent of voters preferred not to turn out, remaining indifferent to the chaos on the
political scene.

That is a message that cannot pass without notice.

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